Improvizone

Development

Andrew Booker 2009-07-19 23:53:27

Finally. I have uploaded a track from our not very good gig on 25 Sep 2007 at the Plough, which was our second gig there, and which should have been fine, but was dire. I came away with less than an hour of recording, hardly any of which was usable, or even in tune with itself. Nonetheless, right at the beginning, Tim played this, and I've managed to tidy up (delete) most of what Nick and I did around it. It is, mostly, really nice. More recent gigs have had the opposite problem of having too much good stuff, usually in continuous passages, that I can't bare to edit down to less than the 10 minutes that I have arbitrarily decided should be the limit for uploads.

Now that the gigs are over for the next month or so, I'm sitting at home doing bits of coding. I have drum software and visuals software to be getting on with, and if I could sit and write that stuff for the rest of my life, with the occasional gig to show it at, I would probably be happy. And a true geek.

Right now though, being a lesser and somewhat false geek, I'm doing simple website stuff. The site has looked pretty much the same since I started it in August 2006, three years ago, and if nothing else, I'm getting a bit bored with the colours. Or colors, if you're reading this from the other side of the Atlantic. A hearty welcome to you all. At the time, I wrote the site in a primitive way using PHP 4, because at the time my ISP couldn't do PHP 5, with its nice DOM library I am now using. If I was properly modern I would be using stuff like Ruby on Rails or Grails. But not only am I a child of the early 1970s, and thus a luddite and a conservative simpleton, I also need to rewrite the ID3 tags on an mp3 file every now and again, and when you have to that kind of thing, it tends give you every bit the arse-ache in nice new dynamic language as it does in C.

First, over at improvizone.org I'm trying out some ideas that look just as old fashioned as this site. I may move everything over to .org one day. Non-profit as we are, I almost regret not registering the domain as .org at the time. But I don't care about that right now. Right now, the ISP providing my .org service has unlimited storage, a telephone number for support, a single user account for the hosting maintenance and payment details, and automatic renewal on my credit card. The .com ISP has no phone number and two accounts, one for maintenance and one for payment. This is a serious nuisance. I use the maintenance account all the time, and it has a password I can remember. The payment account only ever gets used once a year and requires a gibberish password I cannot remember. My normal passwords are apparently not safe enough. It was registered with an email address I lost last year. So come renewal time this year, I couldn't access the invoice, I had no way of paying, and the site went dead for three days. All I could do was start an email support plea to reinstate my account so I could access the invoices and pay. Whereupon I find they can now store my card details and renew automatically. I am peeved.

Some factors preventing me from abandoning them altogether are that they are fast (improvizone.org seems to be really slow), they make stats available in pretty graphs so I can watch fewer and fewer people visiting the site as I get lazier publishing new downloads, and that our web presence is established there. The latter is something I can chip away at as I add to improvizone.org over time and publish gig listings that refer to it rather than improvizone.com. The performance issue doesn't bother me that much, so long as the site stays up. Then in June next year I can decide whether to switch over completely.

Another thing I've been doing is collecting links to video or photos of Improvizone gigs. These are at http://improvizone.org/images.php and so far every last frame from that list was taken by Os, our regular keyboardist, EWIist, laptopiarist, loopist, recordist and visual documentist. I also have several photos in the quality range of quite good to fairly shit, and will upload these to the eclectrode page on flickr if I can be bothered, although I tend to use my photos in the blog pages where they don't look quite so bad when condensed to less than 400 pixels across. For example that one of Mike above.

One other thing I've done on the site is put a Google player on the track page. Go to any download, eg this one, and you'll see it now has a player. You can still download the track if you want it, but I found this very handy on a machine with no mp3 players installed. Every time I use Improvizone for background music, I find myself playing several tracks usually picked at random, and therefore having to stop what I'm doing every 5 or 10 minutes to find a new track. So one idea I'll investigate is possibly having a random player that shuffles through all the downloads for me.

The track page could probably do with a cleanup. When I first put the site together, I was very keen for it to be an interactive place, where people would leave comments or scores for the downloads, even suggest titles and descriptions, and vote on those suggestions. Largely, those features have been completely ignored. Compared to the plentiful steady traffic of people downloading files, very few people comment on the tracks, almost nobody scores, and not one person has suggested a title or a description in the last two years. And no-one has voted on anything, ever. So I'll be dropping that stuff.

I have now almost forgotten that I originally expected people to upload tracks of their own. Hardly anybody has done, which I'm actually glad about, as I like to use the site as a demonstration of what goes on at the gigs. I was thinking of removing the upload link, and then a couple of weeks ago the first ever spammy junk upload made its way onto the site, so I took it off right there and then. The page is still there, because I still need to use it myself.

It's been interesting to see what people have and have not wanted from the site, especially that the blog gets the bulk of the traffic, not the downloads. In fact in the current lull of activity I am spending a few seconds here and there reconsidering my original reasons for doing Improvizone and whether those are still viable, and I'll tell you all about that next time.

Uses for old socks << | >> Make your own entertainment